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Team Effort

Working together, the Moriarty-Violetti harvesting team has developed an efficient thinning process in northern California.

By Kurt Glaeseman

Just how steep is steep? Well, on Roseburg Forest Products' Snowman Thin operation outside McCloud in northern California, the drop can be as severe as 40 to 50 per cent. But the harvest plan calls for thinning, so that's what John Moriarty and the Violetti brothers are doing, in terrain that would have been almost impossible to log 50 years ago. The Moriarty-Violetti combo have developed a process that is quick and efficient, with an average of 10 loads of biomass a day headed to the chipping facility in Weed, where saleable logs are separated from chip material.

"We can't get chip trucks up here with this steep ground, so we're doing whole tree logging," says Mark Violetti, whose company is based out of Red Bluff, California. "We're in our third year with this harvest plan, and we've proven we know how to hang on."
The plan calls for general thinning of Douglas fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, cedar and some oak. The Roseburg foresters have white-marked trees they want kept and both Mark Violetti and John Moriarty agree that the loggers can work easily with the Roseburg foresters' plans.

The Violetti Brothers-Gary on the left and Mark on the right-at the chipping yard in Weed, California, with Mount Shasta in the background.

"The 15-to 18-foot spacing allows maximum growth and provides a measure of fire suppression," says Violetti. "When we leave an area, it's a clean, healthy-looking forest." The four-year thinning project is scheduled to finish this year, with the "new forest" showing a slightly higher proportion of white and Douglas fir.
Although there is a handfaller who cuts targeted trees that are larger than 22 inches, most of the cutting is done by Moriarty and his Timberjack 2618. He couldn't be more pleased with the machine, which he has owned for five years. "I think this machine is one of the best ones out there and I've worked with several others," says Moriarty. "It has good visibility and I like the self-leveling system. The boom set is off-centred to the front; the weight is down low, and we can access steeper ground. And there's almost zero tail swing."

Moriarty maneuvers and dodges around the trees sporting the Roseburg white marks. The others he cuts, holds, moves and places in a convenient bunch for the skidder. He trims brushy undergrowth and occasionally re-trims a stump so it does not exceed 12 inches. When he zeroes in on a 110-foot fir, he drops it precisely into a prepared alley. Mark Violetti grins: "I like watching this. It's like John is out here picking flowers."

A long time resident of Shasta County, John Moriarty is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was also a California logger. John has driven logging trucks and has cut chip material for cogen plants in Lassen, Shasta and Plumas counties. In 1995 he started doing the mechanized logging for the Violetti brothers. He is obviously proud of his thinning work here for Roseburg. "It's been 40 years since this stand has been touched. It truly needs thinning," says John. "This is a great area to re-educate people who are worried about logging. The guys did a good job of selecting and marking the trees. When I get done, the stand looks clean and good."

A Timberjack 2618 does most of the harvesting and receives praise from owner-operator John Moriarty for its good visibility.

The bunched stems are taken by skidders to the landing on Cat D7Gs and a 528. Because the ground is so steep, the skidders have chains. When they leave the landing, they pack slash back out to the trails, which eliminates a huge pile of debris and returns potential nutrients to the soil. Violetti estimates that in a year or two, the slash will have decomposed and become a natural part of the forest floor.

At the landing, Eric Taylor operates the Koehring 6630 log loader. He sorts, delimbs and loads the stems onto logging trucks. He tries to leave the stems as long as possible, since they have to be reprocessed anyway when they get to the chipping site in Weed.
The Violettis have had the 1988 model Koehring since 1993, but they did purchase the Model 314 CTR new.

The setup works well for them. Taylor can quickly bundle the tops, sometimes grabbing a dozen of the smaller ones at a time. "A good feature of this operation is that the combination stroke delimber and loader eliminates a guy and allows us to have smaller landings." says Violetti. "With no one on the ground, it cuts down significantly the potential for injuries to people."

Mark Violetti and his brother Gary grew up in Santa Rosa and started trucking in 1979. In 1983 the brothers started logging together out of Red Bluff-doing conventional logging with big logs. But after the big Fountain Fire, they converted to mechanical logging with delimbers and feller bunchers and got into the paper chip industry. Currently, brother Gary runs the chipping side at the Weed mill. They have yet another operation going at Feather Falls, where they are cutting tan oak into logs, paper chips, grinder fuel and whole tree chip fuel.

A Koehring 6630 unit is used for sorting, stacking and loading at the landing.

At Snowman Thin there's an advantage to hauling out whole trees. They can be stored and debarked according to a time schedule that is more compatible with market conditions.
The Violettis have an older Timberjack C90 at the mill in Weed. The log trucks dump the stems in rows, where they are sorted with the Timberjack, which delimbs them and then puts manufacturing logs into one pile and the rest into an area designated for the chipper. A Cat 966C jockeys the chip material up to the chipper-a Peterson Pacific DDC 5000. Although it is not computerized, it keeps everything moving at a fast pace with the help of Gary Violetti. "This is easy for me. It's like driving a car, you just get used to it," he says modestly. But it isn't all that easy. The grapple will take 22-inch logs, but the big cull logs can bog it down or stall it.

The big Peterson chipper weighs around 105,000 pounds and the V12 800-horsepower Cat engine can burn 20 gallons of fuel per hour. It can't chip anything shorter than seven foot, as it can't grab a shorter stem. The debarking is done by two big flail drums rotating with big chains. The hydraulic floor just keeps shoving the material along, while the bark falls out into a waiting cavity. The central stem hits a five-foot-diameter chipping wheel, which sorts as it chips. All the undesirable chips (usually too long and too large) go out the side and eventually to the slash pile.

The good chips are blown into a waiting truck. Under ideal conditions, a 50,000-pound load is filled in 20 minutes. There are two trucks, so one is always either loading or hauling chips to the mill. The Violettis like to average 10 loads of chips to the mill each day.

A Cat 966C moves material up
to a Peterson DDC 5000 chipper.

The landing at the mill can remain active longer than the logging site at Snowman Thin. Usually the logging site winds down in January or February. With repeated freezing/thawing cycles, the roads get muddy and cut up, so work has to stop.
Stopping the one side doesn't seem like a major setback, but two years ago, the Violettis had three sides going at once on the Snowman Thin. When they all shut down, production slowed to almost nothing. But stockpiled mass in Weed kept the chipper operation going.

Both Mark Violetti and John Moriarty have enjoyed their work at Snowman. They are obviously proud of the rejuvenated forest they will leave behind, but they also know their success is partly due to the cooperative relationship they have with the Roseburg personnel. Sometimes it is difficult to have a forester monitoring the day-to-day logging, but Violetti and Moriarty actually like to see District Forester Dave Hammonds out in the field with them. "Hey, we're all in this together," says Violetti. "Forest owners, foresters, loggers and the whole industry have something to gain when we leave behind a new and healthy forest."

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